The more severe the storm, the more beautiful the luminous rainbow appears to those who survived the storm’s vengeance.
This is the experience from which the term “Rainbow Baby” was coined, because a live, healthy baby is that much more precious when you have previously experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death, or the loss of an infant.
Rainbow babies are healthy babies who are born after a sibling was miscarried or died – whether in utero, the neonatal phase, or during their infancy. In addition to the crippling grief that follows a loss like that, parents are often consumed with fear and guilt, or they have difficulty trusting a succeeding pregnancy, labor and delivery.
Rainbow Babies Are a Most Precious Gift for Grieving Parents
So, like a rainbow that appears after a devastating storm, rainbow babies trigger a multilayered range of emotions in their parents – from great joy, gratitude and healing to surprisingly new layers of anxiety and sadness. If you are pregnant with a rainbow baby, or you know someone who is, it is worth learning what you can expect and the types of support that are most helpful.
Fear and anxiety may be a constant during pregnancy
Parents who have miscarried in the past or who lost their infant early on in his/her infancy typically experience overwhelming fear and anxiety when they conceive a rainbow baby. Unlike parents who have never lost a baby, the parents of rainbow babies know just how unpredictable pregnancy, labor and delivery can be and how quickly things can change.
And, because we know that developing babies are sensitive to their environment (and their mother’s wellbeing), expecting mothers worry that fear and anxiety will negatively impact their rainbow baby. It becomes a vicious cycle.
We love to pair mothers expecting rainbow babies with our midwives because we believe that their consistent emotional support helps to relieve expecting mothers’ stress levels. We also recommend reading our post Steps to Good Mental Health, which gives you the tools necessary to better regulate your understandable stress, anxiety and fear.
You are more vulnerable after the baby’s birth
Because you’ve experienced such loss, and because the birth process and postpartum period trigger a spectrum of emotions, you are more vulnerable than the typical postpartum mom. Specifically, mothers of rainbow babies are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression and anxiety.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression is important. It is also important for your partner, immediate family, and closest friends to have their finger on the postpartum pulse. Often, those experiencing postpartum depression aren’t able to see it for what it is, which means their closest loved ones need to pay attention and get them the help they need.
Visit Let’s Talk About Postpartum Depression to learn more.
Prepare the world for your micromanagement
Other common terms used to describe how parents view their rainbow babies are “miracle baby” and “angel baby.” All babies are precious, but rainbow babies are undeniably more so because of the very life they embody.
This means that the parents of rainbow babies can be particularly protective and micromanaging whenever anyone else is on the scene. If you are a grandparent or friend of a rainbow baby family, breathe deep and be prepared to do everything wrong. You’ll be told how to hold, feed, and look at the baby – even if you’ve raised 12 children of your own.
Don’t worry, though. Your patience, compassion, and the healing benefits of time will help to ease their worried and micromanaging minds. Remember that things our culture treats as “rare occurrences” are not rare to these parents. They’ve lived it – so unthinkable risks seem like very real and rational concerns from where they are standing.
You are a survivor
One of the things we’ve seen over and over again is that the mothers of rainbow babies relish some of the typical pregnancy symptoms that most expecting women complain about. Bring on the morning sickness (it means we’re pregnant!), relish those late night kicks that make it hard to sleep (it means our baby made it past the first trimester) and say “Hallelujah” at those first, intense and often painful first sucks of the nipple (it means we gave birth to a live, healthy baby!). Parents of rainbow babies take nothing for granted.
You are a survivor and have run a gauntlet that most parents never have to endure. We are so excited to know a rainbow baby is on the horizon and we would love to make your experience as positive, nourishing, and supporting as possible. Schedule a prenatal appointment with us at Overlake Ob/Gyn.